Staff-student ratios ‘considerably out of line’ with international norms

UCD president says funding crisis is ‘incredibly serious’ for Ireland

In one of his first public statements since taking up the post, Prof Andrew Deeks – an Australian who moved to Belfield from Durham University – said a new funding model for higher education was urgently needed.

In one of his first public statements since taking up the post, Prof Andrew Deeks – an Australian who moved to Belfield from Durham University – said a new funding model for higher education was urgently needed.

 

Staff-student ratios in higher education in Ireland are now “considerably out of line” with international norms “and the national implication is incredibly serious”, the recently-appointed president of UCD has said.

In one of his first public statements since taking up the post, Prof Andrew Deeks – an Australian who moved to Belfield from Durham University – said a new funding model for higher education was urgently needed.

“Many of the reforms championed by the Minister will indeed enhance the higher education landscape,” he said on the publication by Ruairí Quinn of the Health Education Authority’s first system-performance report.

“However, as the report states, success in implementing the reform programme, and in maintaining and enhancing the quality of outcomes, is dependent on allowing university leadership to have flexibility in the management of human resources, and a comprehensive funding policy,” he said.

“Having come to Ireland from the UK and Australia, I have found that Irish faculty and university staff work harder and longer than many of their international peers.

“The sector had to demonstrate its commitment to doing more with less and, over the past number of years, we have certainly responded.”

The HEA report showed staff-student ratios had increased from 1:15 in 2007 to 1:19 today and were projected to rise to 1:20 by 2016. This compares to an OECD norm of 1:16.

Welcoming the establishment of the funding review group, Prof Deeks said he hoped it would report its findings and recommendations “quickly”.

Funding versus result

Also pleading for urgency, Union of Students in Ireland president Joe O’Connor said there was already an identified need for increased State investment in the sector: “It is reasonable to assume that further increased demand without matching additional funding will impact on the quality of outcomes the system is able to deliver.”

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland also warned of “the damaging effects that cutbacks are having on the quality of experience for students”. The union’s deputy general secretary, Annette Dolan, said institute of technology lecturers taught 18-20 hours per week in contrast with the international norm of 10-12.

For each hour of teaching, a multiple was spent in preparation, evaluation and other academic responsibilities, she said.

Mike Jennings, general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers, said its “overall concern is that we not overcongratulate ourselves on our ability to survive on these meagre resources; it is not a long- or even medium-term option”.